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Those needing a break from all the football excitement may pull out the board games today. Board games, of course, are among the oldest forms of entertainment. But there is room for innovation, as NPR's Travis Larchuck reports.
TRAVIS LARCHUK, BYLINE: OK. So I brought in a bunch of board games from home, and no matter what board game you're talking about - you know, "Scrabble," "Monopoly," "Cranium" - they all actually have something in common, and it's not quite so obvious. But this guy figured it out.
ROB DAVIAU: My name is Rob Daviau, and I'm a board game designer.
LARCHUK: He works for Hasbro and a few years ago, he was play-testing a new version of "Clue" - you know, "Clue," Colonel Mustard in the study with a revolver. So he's playing this game over and over again and just by chance, the same character kept coming up as the killer.
DAVIAU: I mentioned something like, oh, man, I don't know why they keep inviting Mustard back, he's killed three people in a row. And it made me sort of like, pause for a moment and think, wow, there's something there. Why do board games always start over? They have no memory; it's like "Groundhog's Day." And what if there was a way to make a board game sort of remember one game to the next, so it became an ongoing narrative rather than a series of isolated events?
LARCHUK: Now, video games already do this; we take that for granted. But for board games, this is uncharted territory. So Rob Daviau decided to take this concept and apply it to another Hasbro game, "Risk," which I have an early copy of right here. And the game board is a map of the world, and each player gets these little, plastic armies and tries to kill the other player's little, plastic armies by rolling dice.
So Rob Daviau's new version is called "Risk: Legacy," and I took that game to a friend's house to test it out.
(SOUNDBITE OF DICE BEING THROWN)
SEAN: Double sixes. Yeah.
LARCHUK: This is a bloody battle.
What makes this different from the old "Risk" is that decisions you make change the game permanently. So for example, my friend Sean gets to build a city in Africa, and he gets to name it whatever he wants. So he peels off a sticker, sticks it to the game board, and writes on it with permanent marker.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What are you going to name it?
SEAN: Bakersfield, Ethiopia.
LARCHUK: So in every game after this one, whoever controls Bakersfield, Ethiopia, gets a bonus forever.
SEAN: The sticker doesn't come up. I mean, you could rip it up, but you'd ruin both the sticker and the board.
LARCHUK: At other times, you do destroy parts of the game. You rip open secret envelopes, tear up game cards and throw them away. Now, there are folks out there who love board games. They treasure them; they want to preserve them; they even have a website, boardgamegeek.com. And after "Risk Legacy" was announced, the discussion was heated. Some thought the idea was genius; others, like Brad Minnigh, were cautiously intrigued.
BRAD MINNIGH: I'm very careful with my games, so it's going to be hard for me to rip cards in half.
LARCHUK: And some were strongly against. Walter O'Hara posted a comment, saying...
WALTER O'HARA: Something to the effect of that it was a cynical money grab by Hasbro, and do they think we're total morons?
LARCHUK: The game can't be reset so if you want to start fresh, you need to buy a new copy, and this game costs more than 50 bucks. Designer Rob Daviau has heard this criticism before.
DAVIAU: If this was a real plan to get people to buy more board games, it probably wouldn't be in a "Risk" game that's being sold in the hobby markets. This was really, start to finish, just a design project of how to play around with the assumptions of what a board game should and shouldn't be.
LARCHUK: "Risk Legacy" will be in specialty game stores and online just in time to be ripped up and written over during the holidays. Travis Larchuk, NPR News.